In a bid to make agriculture the mainstay of the state’s economy and stay afloat the menace of oil gluts, the g Osun State Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola signed the MOU on behalf of the government in Osogbo.
According to the content of the MoU, the state government will release 204.39 hectares of land around Ago Owu to IITA for the purpose of conducting research and setting up demonstration farms for best farming practices.
The IITA will in turn, carry out cassava, plantain and other crops multiplication as well as train the youths on modern, commercial and profitable farming.
Aregbesola remarked that releasing the farmland to IITA would complement the state agriculture programme, extend the agriculture value chain and create jobs for farmers, especially the youths.
The governor, who identified agricultural development as the main thrust of his administration’s policies, attributed problems facing farmers to lack of confluence between research and practical farming.
“It has been discovered major challenges being experienced by farmers are linked to critical linkage between agricultural research and implementation.
“With the MoU and partnership with IITA, Osun stands to have direct-to-farm linkage of scientific innovations in farming with the best of agriculture scientists,” he said.
The governor commended the IITA and its Director General, Dr. Nteranya Sanging, for being supportive of the goverment’s flagship agriculture programme, Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O’REAP) in many ways.
He noted that said there is no gainsaying the fact that agriculture, where Nigeria has comparative advantage must be the next point of call with the economic down turn, occasioned by sharp decline in oil revenue.
“With our Bonny Light selling for $38.18 yesterday, we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that our focus must shift to agriculture if we must survive the looming financial storm.
“We believe that it is for this reason that God has positioned Dr. Sanginga in our country at this time, as a light first to Nigeria and the continent of Africa as a whole.
“”Osun is a predominantly agrarian state. Agricultural development, especially for food production, has been the main thrust of our administration’s policies since our coming in November 2010.
“Our relationship with IITA, therefore, looks like it was made in heaven. Given our commitment to agriculture, it is inevitable that our paths would cross,” Aregbesola stressed.
Responding, the director general, Sanging, said that the time had come for Nigeria to diversify from dependence on oil, saying that with the disappearance of the oil boom, the country must turn to agriculture to survive.
He stressed that the only source of wealth for Africa is agriculture, noting that agriculture is one of the best ways to get the teeming youth of Africa employed.
He implored Governor Aregbesola to keep to his own side of the MOU, pledging that IITA will hit the ground running in Osun with the 1,000 extension workers provided by the state for the multiplication of seedlings.
“I want to ask these two questions, just think of Africa or Osun state without cassava or yam? If not for the research of IITA there may not have been cassava as it is in the soil of Africa, our Genetic resource centre contained all seeds.
“What we have to do is to use that resources for the benefit of Osun, we will soon start a small programme on Banana and cassava, we will give some of the seed to Osun,” the IITA boss stated.
The Director General Office of Economic Development and Partnerships (OEDP), Dr. Charles Akinola remarked that there had been relationship with IITA for over four years.
He however held that the MOU is an epoch-making event that will facilitate a working relationship with OREAP, promising that crop multiplication and all inputs of planting material will be adequately considered.
“We are anticipating large impact from this partnership, the location is close to the two major farm settlements that we have in the state.
“In these areas, we hope it will translate to the development of 14,000 settlers.
“We expect that the impact of IITA will be felt among about 85 villages and the state as a whole,” Akinola said.
By Yinka Salaam